Today NTT DoCoMo announced a new model currently under development — the FOMA SA800i, made especially for children (specifically, elementary school kids). The phone is expected to go on sale in Spring 2006 and features:
- GPS, allowing you to check where your child is, either from another
mobile phone or from a computer
- an attack alarm (activated by the big pull-out ring)
- parental-control settings that, for example, switch off access to the internet during set times every day
- a "kid's mode" featuring bright, simple menus
It's easy to get cynical and simply pass all this off as Docomo milking the market, paving the way for all manner of inappropriately child-oriented products such as My Baby's First Lexus or the Hello Kitty Colour-In Guide to Portfolio & Risk Management, and it's also a bit Big Brother-ish what with the ability to track your children wherever they may go....
BUT, as under-qualified as I am to talk on such matters (being a non-parent), as an ex-teacher who worked in Japanese schools I'm wholly of the opinion that this is a great idea. Find out why after the jump...
One of the biggest "That. Is. Insane." moments for me during my time as a teacher in Japan was watching how the elementary kids came to school. The majority of elementary school kids in Japan have to walk to school because it is believed that it is good for the children from a social and physical standpoint to do so. This I can understand, since the children have to form "walking groups" and stay in them at all times, which can help them bond socially. However as much as Japan has this reputation for being a safe country, to let small groups of children (especially when some are as young as 5 years old) walk anything up to 2 kilometers to school completely unsupervised, to me — and to many other members of the foreign community — blurs the line between teaching the kids valuable lessons and being socially irresponsible.
This phone at least shows that there is a need to be more socially responsible for the sake of children, and if more manufacturers can find similar applications for their products, then the world can only become a better place.
Hey, quit hugging me.